About

e.quinox is a non-profit, humanitarian project that hopes to bring cost-effective, sustainable renewable energy to developing countries.


Monday, 31 October 2016 14:22

Our Team 2016

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Being one of our 'four pillars', e.quinox is proud to be a student-led organisation. Our team is formed of students at Imperial College London, reading a wide range of subjects from engineering to sciences. The organisation also consists of several other academics and personnel within the university and Rwanda for technical support and advice. Click here to find out how you could get involved.

 

Our Committee

The committee takes the lead of different aspects of e.quinox's operations. The members are elected every year as required by Imperial College Union regulations. Below is the committee of 2016-2017:

  

 

 
Our Employees

We employ local people in Rwanda and Tanzania as our kiosk shopkeepers, who are tasked to manage the daily running of the kiosks.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 01 July 2014 19:10

Franchise

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The Franchise model is e.quinox’s third business model, after the energy kiosks and Standalone. This is still at an experimental stage but believe this could be a more cost-effective solution to the energy kiosks.

Business Model

We will rent local entrepreneurs a modified, up-scaled version of the modular Superpro solar system, by which they can operate businesses that charge small electrical appliances, such as mobile phones and solar lanterns. By miniaturising the kiosk system, the cost of the system and the risk of the business can be passed on to the local entrepreneur, greatly increasing the scalability of the solution. The cost for household customers can also be hugely reduced, since they will not have to own separate batteries and solar systems.

Objectives and goals             

Several short term technical goals have been identified which include the writing of a payment method protocol, testing and benchmarking for the performances of batteries and lanterns, and real-time data streaming and location tracking.

Implementation

Meanwhile, a thorough survey is to be done this summer to identify consumption patterns and finalize the details for the pilot test next year. Ultimately we also aim to design a lantern that is safe, reliable, mechanically rigid and meets “Lighting Africa” standards. It’s manufacturing should also be simple enough to allow for local manufacturing.

 

Sunday, 12 May 2013 20:08

Resources

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Being open source is one of e.quinox's core values, we are compiling a list of our findings from our research is rural electrification solutions. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Energy Kiosk

 

Stand-Alone

 

Conference Papers
Monday, 26 November 2012 14:30

Standalone Solution

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The initial trial for the stand-alone solution was implemented in Summer 2012. The solution was developed to address the principal limitation of the energy kiosks: that people living in the most remote rural villages often live in very scattered communities, making a central kiosk a problem.

 

What is the Stand-alone Solution? 

The Stand-alone solution consists of a pay-as-you-go solar lighting kit, known as the Izuba.Box, which is installed in the customer’s home. A solar panel is connected to a sealed box which then can provide lighting and charge small appliances (cell phones, radios, etc.). The high capital costs of the solar home system is circumvented through the use of a mobile payment based, pay-as-you-go scheme.

Customers are required to buy credit for the Izuba.Box, which is added to the box via an unlock code entered into the keypad on the box. Customers are given the choice of how long they would like to “unlock” for and use the box. Once their “unlock” expires they can use a mobile payment scheme to request a new code, thereby removing the need to travel to buy new credit, and ensuring they always have light. The payment scheme is rent-to-own which encourages customers to keep paying on a regular basis and to take good care of their system.  

 

Business Model

Due to the open nature of the locking mechanism hardware, it is possible to formulate a very flexible business model. Unlock codes lasting for as short as 2 days and as long as 8 weeks give financial freedom of choice for the customer and help in reducing the number of people dropping out from the scheme. This is particularly important in a local economy which is heavily based on agriculture and thus an inconsistent income stream. Our stand alone customers can pay with their mobile phones. In Rwanda, the major carriers allow customers to deposit cash onto a “mobile money” account. The customer can then send money directly to our shopkeeper, who will provide the unlock code by text.

 

Implementation

Over the Summer Expedition 2012, the Standalone team successfully implemented a trial of 74 Izuba.Boxes. Izuba is the Kinyarwandan word for Sun and comes in two sizes: Home and Pro. The Home system is designed to provide only lighting, powering a small radio and mobile phone charging. The Pro model is targeted a customers who may be able to use the box to generate more income, such as powering a razor for a barber shop, and has a larger solar panel and battery as well as a conventional AC output. . The trial consists of 65 Home systems and 9 Pro systems, distributed to the villagers of the Minazi and Mataba districts in Gakenke Sector, Rwanda.

A lot of lessons have been learnt during the implementation and we continue to improve the solution. Click here to find out more.

 

Saturday, 24 November 2012 01:20

Vision

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Our Vision

e.quinox is a non-profit, humanitarian project that hopes to bring cost-effective, sustainable renewable energy to developing countries.

We strongly believe that technology can be a solution to many of the problems we face today. Our goal is to give communities the means to help themselves. Our project aims to develop a business model which is financially sustainable - designed to recover for the initial investment made for the energy kiosks over a few years.

e.quinox aims to develop and implement a cost-effective off-grid stand alone photovoltaic system to power rural villages in the developing world. We consider electric power as a fundamental element to ensure an acceptable quality of life. The introduction of electricity to small communities in developing countries will have many benefits: improving health, education and the general quality of life. We realise that building a centralised electric network in this context will not be socio-economically feasible, but we believe smaller, economically viable and technologically appropriate solutions may be the answer.

Monday, 09 April 2012 20:24

Battery Box Development

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The battery box is an essential part of our electrification solution. This approach allows for a centralised power production facility, our energy kiosks, and distribute the electricity for consumption using the boxes. This reduces significantly the infrastructure cost associated with a conventional grid. This is also applicable for the standalone solution.

Since e.quinox started in 2009, we have been through a few designs, all based on the lessons learnt from previous models.

First Generation 2009

Our first battery box offered 12V DC to run appliances such as light bulbs, radios and mobile telephones. However, during our implementation phase in September 2009, we noticed that interfacing some of the appliances proved to be very difficult. We noticed that 12V DC with our specialised plug proved to not allow the degree of flexibility conventional grid offers. It is important to remember that the target market are people that earn least in the world and their expected load profile can be estimated to be 40Wpeak.

Second Generation 2010

To extend the variety of appliances that can be used with the box, an inverter was integrated. Having a standard 230V AC plug allowed our customers to use AC lighting as well as all other standard low power appliances. The second generation box was decreased in size and weight to increase handiness.

Third Generation 2011

Problems concerning the inverter and the AC lighting in the second generation lead to a third box that combines the advantages of the previous models and minimises the weaknesses. Returning to the DC lighting uses less energy and the inverter is switched on only if needed.

Fourth Generation 2012

Research has shown that the main uses for the battery box are lighting and phone-charging, and to this end, the 4th generation boxes only have 2 DC outputs. One 12V output for the lights, and one 5V USB output for phone charging. This eliminates the need for an inverter, which in the past has proven one of the more expensive and most unreliable components of the design.

The simple design means e.quinox started exploring the exciting prospect of local manufacturing. 200 boxes were manufactured in Rwanda during this summer’s expedition, sourcing the majority of the materials locally and using local labour. This project has the dual benefit of supporting the local economy through the use of local resources, and spreading the knowledge of the battery boxes to the local population.

What's next?

A lot of lessons learnt has been leant during the implementation in 2012, and this year, the team is working on a new design, which will simplify the manufacturing process, and also increase the safety and reliability of the boxes.

Interested in this project? Find out how you can get involved or contact us for more information.

Sunday, 08 April 2012 13:49

Datalogger

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Datalogger

Due to the increasing number of energy kiosks, it has become a high priority for the e.quinox team to obtain regular updates to track the performance and capacity of the equipment installed in Rwanda and Tanzania. Because most commercial solutions cost thousands of pounds to implement and maintain they are incompatible with the aims and ideals of e.quinox. The Data Logger project was thus started in 2010 to provide a bespoke, cost effective and flexible solution that could grow and adapt to the increasing requirements posed by the growing scale and number of energy kiosks. With two units already installed in Rwanda, the team is currently developing a next generation system to further reduce costs, improve the design and move towards becoming an open source alternative available to external organisations that share our aims and interests.

When deployed at one of our sites in Africa, the Datalogger system collects data from various sensors and transmits the information to our servers in London using a standard GSM/3G connection. These units gather information about the local environment such as temperature, light and humidity as well as power generation and consumption within the kiosk at each stage of the electrical system. This system also allows the team in London to download, visualise and analyse the data received through a graphical web interface.

During the summer expedition 2012, it became apparent that the system needed a redesign. It is currently far too complicated which makes debugging very difficult (especially in the field) and can add problems which members may not know how to fix. Our proposed design will be a much more generic one board system aimed at sensing in a wider range of places. This will include several voltage and current sensors (not aimed at a specific point) and some common digital inputs with the possibility of adding multiple other sensors as well. Data collected will be stored in an SD card and also uploaded to an internet server via a MBed microcontroller.

Interested in this project? Find out how you can get involved or contact us for more information.

Friday, 06 April 2012 11:56 Written by

The Standalone solution has been implemented in summer 2012. Find out more about it here

Our Standalone team is currently working on the next generation of Izuba.Box, our standalone battery boxes, after feedback obtained over the trial implementation period. A physical re-design of the box will make manufacturing simpler and fine-tuning the type and quantity of outputs will yield a solution better tailored to our customers. Updates to the software will make the second generation more intuitive and user-oriented. Specific software bugs and poor design choices will be eliminated.

Also, in cooperation with a Rwandan start-up company, the goal of automated mobile-based unlocking will be tackled. Instead of using regular mobile payments to purchase an unlock code based on the value transferred, an app will be written (for all old and low-cost cell phone models) that allows users to select the wanted unlock duration, pay, then automatically receive a reply from an automated web-server with their box-specific unlock code. This method would cut out the middleman, thereby reducing operating costs and increasing customer response time. Another method being investigated is the integration of a GSM module into the box itself. By enabling the box to communicate with the web-server directly, a customer would only have to approve the payment via text and ensure their box is “topped up” with mobile money credit, the rest is done automatically. This method would increase the flexibility of the business model even further by introducing the possibility of pay monthly schemes similar to direct debit in western countries. 

Saturday, 07 April 2012 13:55

Rugaragara, Nuruguru

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Rugaragara, Nuruguru, Rwanda

Built: Coming Summer 2012
Coordinates: 2°35’42.26”S ,29°29’36.37”E
Power Generation: Pelton Turbine and Induction Generator
Max Power Output: 5500W
Cost: USD40,000
Built By: e.quinox and DHE
Objectives: Rural electrification by hydroelectric power.
Partners: Imperial College London, University of Dartmouth, IEEE, Care International

The hydro kiosk project is a collaboration between e.quinox and DHE (Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering), planned for implementation in June of 2012. The designed system is for a pico hydropower scheme that diverts water from the top of the Rugaragara falls through a vertical height of 25m. The DHE team have designed and manufactured a state of the art pelton wheel turbine to capture energy from the falling water, whilst e.quinox have designed the entire front-end electrical system to control output from the induction generator being used to create electricity from the falling water.

 

Extensive socio-economic studies of the local population have shown the region to be a highly appropriate constituency to introduce the e.quinox battery box charging system as a solution to rural electrification. Local people would hire a battery box with DC and AC outputs that is charged using the electricity generated from the hydropower kiosk. Each battery box can be used for powering lights, mobile phones, radios and shavers to improve the standard of living for local people.

 

This summer e.quinox and DHE will undertake the entirety of the construction work with the help of employed local labour. The project is being facilitated by Care International an NGO working in Rwanda to help improve the wellbeing of the rural population. Funding for the project has been generously donated by IEEE.

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